Church shines brighter on Main Street

Published 9:37 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roger Bertschinger with Epiphany Studios Inc. works on refurbishing a stained-glass window at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on North Main Street on Tuesday. The church is in the middle of a project to maintain, repair or replace all of its stained-glass windows.

If North Main Street seems a little more bright and colorful lately, it’s not because spring is here — it’s because of the work being done at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The church is in the midst of a massive effort to upgrade its stained-glass windows, which includes simple cleanings and maintenance of some windows and full-scale replacements of others.

“We’re preserving these works so they’re going to last for a long, long time,” said the Rev. Keith Emerson, rector of St. Paul’s.

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To people looking at the 1892 building from outside, the most significant change will be that the Lexan, a type of polycarbonate sheet that protected the windows, will be gone.

Though the Lexan protects the windows, it also blurs the view of them and can contribute to dry-rot in the surrounding wood, said Gene Higgins Jr., studio director of Epiphany Studios Inc., which is doing the work.

Instead, the Lexan is being replaced with laminated safety glass that will protect the works of art.

But to get the full effect of the windows, one must go inside the sanctuary.

The removal of the Lexan and cleanings being done to the windows allow the light to shine through much brighter, Emerson said. Some of the windows were never properly supported, resulting in the glass cracking, so they are being repaired and reinforced.

But Emerson is most excited about some of the replacements that are being done.

A cross in the balcony, which has been there for some time, now is flanked on either side by an anchor and a burning heart. Together, the three represent an oft-quoted verse from St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, declaring that “faith, hope and love abide” in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

“I really like that saying of Paul depicted in stained glass,” Emerson said.

Under those windows, on the first level of the sanctuary, a large, 1,200-piece window depicts a representation of Matthew 25:35 — “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

The center portion of that work had been there for many years, but Higgins refurbished it. He also created two side panels that expand the scene to replace ones that had been there previously.

Emerson said the windows, which are seen on the way out of the sanctuary, will give parishioners a chance to reflect on how to put their faith into action.

“It is important that people think about the gifts they have been given — faith, hope and love — and how they take that out into the world in compassion,” Emerson said.

All told, the project will cost about $125,000. Emerson said the congregants have been generous in helping to pay for the project.

“It’s a service to God, because it’s His temple we’re preserving,” said Higgins, who has been creating and preserving stained-glass works for 36 years. “When they hire us, they’re trusting their heritage, their art to us.”